One of my favorite pictures of Mom is the one taken in the 1930's, when she was a young teen-ager on the South Side of Chicago. She's perched astride her bicycle, both hands on the handlebars, smiling at the camera. I look at that photo and it strikes me what a ride she had through life -- active, fun, sometimes sad, sometimes joyful, but always lively and loving.
Alice Marie was born and raised on the East Side, where her father Louis Radovan worked in the steel mill. Her mother Edith Olson was a young bride who proudly rolled Mom around the neighborhood in her pram. Mom's childnood memories were full of the joys of home and her parents' love, breezy days on the lakeshore at Calumet Park, the excitement of road trips to visit relatives in Michigan. She made friends easily and knew all the neighbors on her block at home on Avenue J.
That happy home life ended with the break-up of her parents' marriage when Alice was ten years old. At this sensitive time in her life she was taken in by her Swedish grandparents, John and Mathilda Olson, who cared for her for three years. She formed a strong bond with her Aunt Alice and her Uncle Luther at that time. When Mom finally went back to live with her mother, she embraced her new stepfather Mike Fransson, just as she enjoyed a wonderful relationship with her stepmother Dorothy Brennan. The new family bounced around the South Side for a few years, and one lucky bounce landed Mom on a certain block of Carpenter Street in the Englewood neighborhood.
I imagine she was riding that bike the first time Mom met Raymond Heinrich Ziemer, and she probably had that same smile on her face. This poor guy just wanted to get home from track practice, but he found himself smitten with the girl on the bike. Before long they were married, with their own bungalow, working in the war industry, and handing off their new little daughter Barbara between shifts. Eventually I joined the family and Susan became the third of their children. Mom was a loving wife for 55 years and a great traveling companion for Dad and the rest of us on those road and train trips to California. She was a practical homemaker, a frugal coupon-clipper, and an excellent cook. An outstanding photographer, she entertained the whole family with her stereo slides, and eventually documented every flower, every meal, and every step of every vacation. She believed in our dad, encouraged him and helped him in business ventures -- not just with the bookkeeping, but with hard work, laundering curtains and dressing chickens. As tight as Mom was with money, she was generous with her time and attention. All those years on Fairfield Avenue she shared her home and her kitchen with her mother-in-law, always a devoted daughter-in-law to Grandma Bertha. She spread her love around to her children, to her sons-in-law Tom and Bob, and to her grandchildren Thomas, Matthew, Allison, and Trevor.
Each of us had our own special relationship with Mom, and many precious memories. She was an excellent listener -- had to be with our dad the storyteller -- and I treasure the memories of those days after school when she would encourage me to tell her about my day's events, and listen patiently as I related the entire plot of some novel I was reading. Even in recent years, we enjoyed those moments - mornings when I would interrupt her back-to-back reading of the Tribune to share sweet rolls and coffee, and I would tell her about the business or the family. And as we would sometimes talk about the old times and her childhood experiences, I could tell that even in her eighties, part of Mom still felt like that girl on the bike.
She had always been active -- I still remember the day back on the old block, when the neighbor ladies came by to invite her to join their bowling league. For decades afterward Mom bowled on several leagues and had a slew of trophies for her efforts. Later in Oak Brook she golfed and played tennis with women who were often surprised to discover that she was ten years older than them. Vivacious and fun-loving, Mom loved a party, always hanging in till the end, including those late-night discussions with Dad, with her father and Auntie Dot. She had so many good times with cousins Harold and Jean, with Jim and Peg Blaney, with her Oak Brook neighbors, and with her old schoolgirl friends Agnes and Sue. We were very proud of her for staying involved after Dad died. She remained active with the bridge club, the garden club, Oak Brook activities and day trips. She spent a year on the Grand Jury, walking downtown to the Federal Building once a week. And she continued the family tradition of traveling near and far -- road trips to Florida and excursions to Asian shores. She shared time with the whole family every year in Mexico, and took us to see the capitals of Europe. She was always planning some kind of trip. And even a couple of knee replacements barely slowed her down.
What an example she was for all of us. An intelligent, independent woman with a lot of ability, she stayed interested in everything. She didn't want to miss out on anything, and I'd say she savored every deep breath she took on her ride through life.
Lively and lovely woman -- our mom -- bright, fun-loving, and always on the go -- Alice always was the Girl on the Bike.-- Ray Ziemer June 21, 2010
ZIEMER'S TREE * * * OLSONS OF CHICAGO * * * BURGERMEISTER'S DAUGHTER